This week’s adventure brings me closer to home to Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Let’s go back in time to the year 1789 to Derbyshire, England. A man named Samuel Slater spent his life working in a cotton mill and had great dreams of coming to America and making it rich . England forbade textile workers from leaving the country for fear of technology leaking to other countries and hindering England’s lead and power. However, Slater found a way by sneaking out of England memorizing the plans to build textile machines. He eventually came to Pawtucket, where with the financial backing of Moses Brown established the first water power cotton mill in America in 1790.
Slater used mostly women and children to run his mill as it was cheaper labor. Children were also useful because they were small enough to crawl into the machines to unjam looms.
Slater’s wealth grew as he continued to build more mills. He eventually started a company mill town called Slatersville. This town had a mill, tenement houses, and a store.
Andrew Jackson refers to Slater as ” Father of the American Factory System” but people in England referred to him as “Slater the Traitor”.
All other mills in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts will evolve from Slater’s mill. The Industrial Revolution will forever change the New England economy. Many of these mills still exist today. Some are museums, while others are apartment buildings . As you visit these mills either through historical tours or walking the grounds, they tell you a story. The story of men with dreams to make it rich, a story of a family working long hours in treacherous conditions to make ends meet, and a story of economic change.
As I walk the grounds today in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States, I look around. I see a very well preserved historic site that excites me in all it has endured over time. I think of the people from the past and what they have endured as well. And the irony is that this site is located in a poor section of the city. Homeless lying in the park, streets littered with trash, the noise of construction on old buildings nearby. And I wonder how advanced have we really come…